Friday, August 8, 2014

"...I don't believe that boy ain't scared of nothing." - a blackout poem

Months ago, I rescued a pair of books from my local library that were to be discarded. convinced that I could make something with them. I've seen lots of altered books, cut paper pieces, and other works that use old books to make works that are clever, creative, and beautiful; it was time for me to play, to figure out what I could do.

They quickly became just another thing added to my space.

Yesterday, I happened to come across Laura E. Davis' recent blackout poem "the bride". I'd never heard of blackout poems before, but I was curious (as I often am). She explained that a blackout poem "usually begins with the source text in hard form, like a newspaper article, and the poet redacts text...leaving behind a poem".

It was my turn. I pulled out those aforementioned old books and rifled through my supplies to see how I might bring something to fruition. Laura was spot on with her guess that they'd be natural for me, though I don't often write poems and I'd never used words in my work before.

I opened the book to a random spot, circling words and phrases that caught my eye, that I could bring together to tell a story. I then drew what came to mind as it came together. Not much time passed before I had something.

I didn't want him to forget what I told him. 
I went to another world; come and take him home. 
Someone left, crying. 
I don't believe that boy ain't scared of nothing.
I reached for him. 
Let's go.

"...I don't believe that boy ain't scared of nothing."9"x12"
mixed media on paper

I'm curious to know what you all think. I may do more of these.

Textual source: Never As Good As The First Time by Mari Walker, St. Martin's Griffin, 2008

Monday, February 3, 2014

Twitter Art Exhibit: Orlando

I tweet.

A lot.

A lot a lot.

Okay, I don't tweet nearly as much as some, but definitely more than others. I read my tweet stream often; that's where I learn about (at least initially) a lot of the themes that show up in my work. It is also where I learned about the #TwitterArtExhibit. This year--the show's fourth--is in Orlando, Florida, and the sales of the postcard sized works entered will benefit the Special Needs Dance Programs of the Center for Contemporary Dance.

I think I first learned of this last year. I remember enquiring about the deadline, and (almost as promptly) letting it pass by. I don't know why making such a small work was met in my mind with so much resistance, but it was. This year, I had been seeing quite a few Orlando-bound works in my Twitter feed, but it wasn't until very recently that I sat down and started to sketch something out.

*  *  *
"I stay 'woke." 

The above is a slang phrase used sometimes, when someone wishes to let others know that they are always paying attention, guarded, observant, vigilant, with a response at the ready.  Someone that "stays 'woke" has their own ideas and opinions about everything they see and never blindly accepts the narrative given by those in authority. They aren't hesitant to make those opinions known to all who might listen. If I had to guess the origin of the phrase I would pin it to the final scenes of the 1988 Spike Lee film "School Daze":

Quite a few of the film's characters were literally waking up as they gathered outside in pajamas and nightgowns around Dap (Laurence Fishburne) as he yelled and rang a shrill, piercing bell. Dap wanted his peers to be aware and take notice of all that was going on around them, both in the world at large and the microcosm of that world in which the film was set, a HBCU (Historically Black College/University) campus in the late 1980s. The film ends as Fishburne gazes directly at the camera and says in a quieter, slightly pleading voice directly to the viewer, "Please. Wake up."

"Please. Wake up."

And so she is. Facing the viewer but not seeing them, she stretches, rubbing sleep from her eyes. It is morning, because she dared to see.

Morning (When I Dared to See)
gouache and graphite on paper

Monday, August 26, 2013

Just ask...

Just asking seems both easier and requiring more courage than actually making art, but equally as vital, as illustrated by Amanda Palmer's TED talk from earlier this year.

And I am terrible at it.

It's terrifying and yes, as she mentioned, it does feel like begging. It isn't though. Begging implies that you are asking for something for nothing. I don't dare speak for other artists, but what I do isn't nothing. It is the complete opposite of that; I make paintings and draw things and write things for a lot of reasons. One of the most important is that I want to share myself, to give of myself to the hundreds of thousands of people with whom I share this planet.

I will be the first to admit that I am not nearly as courageous as she is. Intriguing as it sounds, the idea of painting myself and standing on a city street in a wedding dress as a living statue makes my stomach churn. Even more frightening is the prolonged exchange of eye contact, or thought of stripping naked and letting people draw on me. I easily recognize the impulse to do this as the same one that inspires my most honest paintings and blog posts, but somehow (at least in my case) it doesn't seem to be enough.

"So I had the most profound encounters with people, especially lonely people who looked like they hadn't talked to anyone in weeks, and we would get this beautiful moment of prolonged eye contact being allowed in a city street, and we would sort of fall in love a little bit. And my eyes would say, 'Thank you. I see you.' And their eyes would say, 'Nobody ever sees me. Thank you.'"

I think the missing bit for me is encounters with people, face-to-face. I spend so much time on the internet; I freely admit that I don't always want to see people nor do I want to always be seen. I want the sense of direct connection to people that Palmer talks about here, that seems so vital to her career, but I'm scared of it too.

This is where I come to you, internet. I am asking. Challenge me to make art in the company of others, to make connections with people in my own ways, to find my own ways to be a living statue, at least metaphorically speaking. I'm not sure I can I can't be the painter/performer/writer I dream of being if I don't challenge myself to perform, so I am asking for your help. I am adding a 'tip jar' to the left hand sidebar of this blog; donate as you are able. For those that can, buy my paintings. Make them a part of your world.

Thank you, Amanda Palmer.

State of the Artist: August 2013

Happy Monday!

I really should post here more often, if not about the work I'm making at least about the work I'm seeing. I'd like to go see Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some of you may know his work well, as I do, from the many children's books he has illustrated over the years. I loved reading as a child (I still do, actually) and dreamed of illustrating books myself someday. Perhaps I could write a little here about my most loved children's books and how they influenced me as an artist?

Wise Words

"Nothing is more apt to deceive us than our own judgement of our work. We derive more benefit from having our faults pointed out by our enemies than from hearing the opinions of friends."  --Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

I love the glowing praise my art gets from the people who love it. It makes me happy when people tell me that my work is "strong" and "bold and rooted in emotion". It lets me know that I'm connecting with an audience, however small, and sharing in something mutually meaningful.

Sometimes, something--or everything--I've done is not to an individual's taste and that's fine, but there's nothing to be done with that.

Tell me you don't like my work. In truth, we gain more in the long run from criticism of a constructive nature. The key word there is, of course, constructive. It's okay, really...but tell me why. Therein lies creative advancement. I can learn from that. I can see where something might not be working.

Current Projects

Paintings in Progress: 3

That's okay, I guess. I like working on a few different things at once, so no one piece feels forced. I can take the time I need to consider what comes next in each piece, since they rarely ever come to my mind fully formed, ready to be 'born', as it were. Works come together in bits and pieces, over a period of weeks or months, and I have had to learn to be okay with that. I was hoping for more of a response on my last post, as I know it is a topic that (usually) elicits strong feelings from a lot of people.

You can always see more of my in progress work on my Twitter and Instagram.

I am also writing a performance piece! This work is new to me; it's scary and exciting and maybe even dangerous, but it feels right.


Those of you who don't keep up with me on Facebook might not know that Hyacinth Girl Press' newest chapbook Darling Hands, Darling Tongue by Sally Rosen Kindred is available now. It's a darling little collection of Peter Pan-inspired poems for which I did the cover art (prints of which are available here, in my Redbubble shop). I love the sheer variety of art and artists--both poetry and visual--of the works published by Margaret Bashaar and the team at HGP.

I am thinking of making this State of the Artist a monthly thing. What say you, internet?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Keep your legislation away from my body. Period.

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, I'm sure you're well aware of the Republican 'war on women' in the United States. Since the 2010 midterms, legislators in dozens of states have systematically worked to undermine Roe v. Wade and close Planned Parenthood and other women's health care facilities, severely restricting access to abortion, which is still, supposedly, a constitutional right.

As of now, there are several U.S. states where abortion clinics have been almost or completely legislated out of existence: Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas, among others.

I'm sure you have heard of "Governor Ultrasound". First, Robert McDonnell of Virginia, then, months later, Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed legislation that forces women seeking an abortion to undergo a medically unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasound. Despite overwhelming opposition in Texas that included an eleven hour filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis, Governor Rick Perry managed to bring to fruition legislation that will force a majority of abortion clinics in that state to shut their doors.

Why do all of these (typically male) legislators take such a perverse pleasure in controlling other people's bodies?

One of the paintings I am working on now seeks to explore this.

I want to literally tell the story of the pro-choice movement on her body.

Please suggest images I could use to do this; I would add them to her body like tattoos. I want to try to refrain from using words, but feel free to leave links to pictures and stories and/or comment with phrases and ideas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lion/ess: The Myth of the Strong Black Woman

Lion/ess: The Myth of the Strong Black Woman


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Exploring Silence

Does my work break silence?

I believe that it does, yes—with line, shape, and color. I compose pieces very deliberately, even if my intention is hidden away from everyone, including myself. My innate sense of how to use forms and figures is... what? I guess it is in service of Story, that elusive thing that everyone understands both differently and exactly the same. I break silence by attempting to articulate feelings—either with images or with words—as honestly as possible.

There is not enough honesty in the world.

Everyone is hiding. I hide too, behind my work, between my words…but it is there. I am there. Behind, around, between. Right there. You can see me if you look.

The act of making work breaks my silence.

I am so often silent, because I am so often by myself. I don’t need to make a sound, my voice rings loudly through my thoughts. There is a large, more pervasive silence with my work, the silence that comes when people encounter difference.

Silence roars.

I associate sleep with silence, an empty room, a blank sheet of paper or canvas, and the multihued black that exists behind your eyelids when you squeeze your eyes shut tightly.

Is there silence in my work? If there is, I don’t recognize it as such. How do I find the silence there, even as I try so hard to give it words?